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This Bullet Journal Will Fix Everything


Congratulations on deciding to join the bullet journal (BuJo) community and transform your life! BuJo is the trademarked journaling method that helps practitioners live more intentionally. Once you begin your journey (BuJourney), all your projects and dreams will be at your fingertips in one beautifully organized package of dead trees, ink, and adhesives. (Click here for affiliate link to washi tapes.)

Many people think the first step in bullet journaling is to buy a notebook. Not so fast! The first step is prolonged meditation on your flaws. 

Illustration of author with bullet journal

“Uh oh! Now half the pages are stuck together, somehow.” Illustration by Josh Quick.

Make space on your floor by shoving over the stacks of laundry and unread Poets & Writers magazines. Soon your daily BuJo practice will vanquish those piles, along with your carpal tunnel symptoms and the nagging feeling that you chose the wrong career path. Sit in a comfortable position with closed eyes, focus on your breath, and wait for knowledge of your most urgent self-improvement needs to manifest. Popular areas include time management, budgeting, personal hydration, and houseplant hydration. 

Next come supplies. You can use any kind of notebook to BuJo. But obviously you can’t use just any old pens! Buy the most expensive ultra fine-tip markers or roller-balls you can find. As a rule of thumb, get as many colors as the number of seconds you wish you could hold a plank pose.

OK, let’s BuJo. Write “INDEX” at the top of the first page. You’ll see this every time you open your bullet journal, so try to make your handwriting impeccable. But tensing up makes your penmanship worse, so don’t stress about it!

Whoops, that was terrible. Throw out that notebook and start over.

Write “1” at the bottom of the first page. While you’re at it, number the rest of the pages too. Think carefully about how you align your numerals, whether you want to make your 7’s the European way with the little line going across, etc. Feel free to spend several days on this. Any important things you let slide (such as showering, or driving the carpool home from your kid’s school) will become tasks on your FUTURE LOG. (Click here for affiliate link to dry shampoo.)

Along with your FUTURE LOG, you’ll be building a MONTHLY LOG and a DAILY LOG. First you’ll probably want to have a PROTEIN-RICH SNACK like a kefir smoothie. Oops, the blueberries in the fridge are all moldy. Brainstorm the best pen color to use for meal planning in your BuJo. Take a quick NAP.

You’ll also need to choose SYMBOLS. Many people use bullets for tasks, dashes for notes, and circles for events, but you should personalize the system. For example, you might use a star for extra-important tasks, cute thought bubbles to represent ideas for your next novel, and 4 or 5 stars for carpool duty because if you miss it again they’re going to kick out your kid and he’s going to stop talking to you.

Next put all the symbols and their meanings on a GLOSSARY page. Recall that this page should have been first, before the index. Throw that notebook out and start over. Recall that you were supposed to meet a trainer earlier today for a personal Pilates class, and that it’s non-refundable.

In the best BuJos, every spread includes an inspirational quote or line of poetry. You’ve already collected a hundred or so of these in a list somewhere, right? (Wait, no? Why have you been carrying that Mary Oliver collection in your purse for the past six months?) You can make your quotes pop by adding a subtle wash of watercolor paint at the top of each page. Uh oh! Now half the pages are stuck together, somehow. Throw that notebook out too. Sign up for an online class on watercolor painting.

Follow all the #BuJo groups you can find on Facebook and Instagram. Spend a year studying other people’s most beautiful journal spreads. Buy your kid the iPad you promised him to make up for getting kicked out of the carpool. Write “CHAUFFEUR SERVICE FOR 5TH GRADERS??” on a sticky note and lose it. Buy 10 leather-bound notebooks with archival paper and fill them with freewriting about experiences in your childhood that led to your failure in every facet of life today. (Click here for affiliate link to psychotherapy.) Throw away all of those notebooks.

This next journal is going to be the one. Almost definitely. Maybe try different pens?

If you enjoyed this post on the bullet journal, check out other knee-slapping humor blogs from guest authors.

author headshot
Elizabeth Preston (Guest Blogger)

Elizabeth Preston is a science journalist and humor writer in the Boston area. Her organizational tactics begin and end with the Notes app. Read more at her website or follow her on Twitter.